US News & World Report

By Nicole Hemmer

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who stepped down from his show on Fox News in January to weigh a presidential run, will need a slogan when he launches his campaign. Here’s a suggestion: caveat emptor.

As the New York Times reported Sunday, Huckabee appeared in an Internet ad for the "Diabetes Solution Kit," a “dubious diabetes treatment” that recommends cinnamon and chromium picolinate as a “kitchen-cabinet cure” for the disease. Huckabee, who reversed his Type 2 diabetes after losing 100 pounds, pointed to his own experience to sell the treatment.

Except Huckabee recently admitted he never used cinnamon and chromium picolinate as part of his regime. His one weird trick to reverse diabetes? A healthier diet.

Huckabee’s case for the 2016 nomination has always been a shaky one. He briefly upended the 2008 Republican primaries by winning the Iowa caucuses, but his campaign fizzled and within two months of Iowa he was out of the race. He has spent the seven years since in the world of conservative media, more rhetorician than politician.

While his time in the conservative media complex has left him ill-prepared for the presidency, it’s his role as snake oil salesman that should disqualify Huckabee entirely. For one, the ads damage his reputation. Not only does Huckabee appear in the diabetes infomercial, but as the New York Times reported, his email-based newsletter carries ads shilling survivalist food kits and Bible-based cancer cures.

The problem is not that Huckabee relies on advertising — almost everyone involved in conservative media has to do the same to stay afloat — but that the type of advertising he relies on carries a strong whiff of kookery. This mix of charlatanry and fear-based advertising has a significant presence in conservative media. Ads encouraging listeners to hoard survival seeds and gold reserves punctuate right-wing radio programs. One such advertiser, Goldline, which received Huckabee’s endorsement and sponsored Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity's radio shows, was ordered in 2012 to pay $4.5 million in restitution to defrauded customers.

But these ads don’t just reflect poorly on Huckabee’s reputation — they reflect poorly on his character. In peddling patent medicine, Huckabee exploits the faith of his followers. Conservative media figures often rely on a particular set of claims when speaking to their audiences: Mainstream media sources are biased; scientific and academic consensus is questionable; ideology, rather than expertise or credentials, is the most reliable measure of trustworthiness. Wielding that logic to sell a sham diabetes cure to people who trust him because of his politics is reprehensible.

To be clear, it is a sham: There's simply no good medical evidence that suggests these supplements do anything to affect diabetes. And it bears repeating that Huckabee, who referred to his own experience to present himself as a diabetes-reversal expert, did not use these supplements. While Huckabee has quietly ended his relationship with the diabetes cure company, his run as its spokesman should leave Republican voters wary of what other bill of goods they’re being sold.

This article was originally published in the US News & World Report